What is Psychotherapy?

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people navigate a variety of emotional challenges and mental health issues.  Psychotherapy involves regular interaction and communication between a trained professional and a person seeking help. The goal of psychotherapy is to help a person understand, change or control unhelpful behaviours, thoughts, emotions, or beliefs so that they can function better and increase well-being. 

How can psychotherapy help?

People engage in psychotherapy for many reasons: to boost self-confidence, increase self-esteem, improve communication, develop additional coping strategies, learn how to create boundaries, improve relationships, increase awareness and to better understand oneself. 

Psychotherapy can help people learn how to manage through difficult emotions, such as: anger, grief, and sadness. Psychotherapy is effective at improving symptoms associated with mental health diagnoses: anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive thoughts or behaviours, addiction, eating disorders, post-traumatic-stress disorders and personality disorders. Therapy is a designated safe and confidential space to work through anything that is troubling you.  It can be short-term (a few sessions), dealing with immediate issues, or long-term (months or years), addressing complex issues. 

Psychotherapy can be used in combination with medication or other forms of therapy. 

Psychotherapy is backed by research showing that those who receive psychotherapy experience a reduction in negative symptoms and an increase in mental and physical well-being. Actual changes in the neurobiology of the brain can be observed after a person has undergone psychotherapy. 

Importance of relationship

For the greatest benefits to take place, the relationship between therapist and client is important. Developing a strong therapeutic relationship build on the foundation of collaboration, trust and empathy will allow for the greatest positive change. Committing to your goals and treatment plan, including work between sessions is also important for getting the most out of sessions and seeing lasting positive change. A key element in psychotherapy is learning how to utilize the tools in your toolbox as you navigate challenges throughout life, long after therapy sessions have ended. 

What are some of the types of therapy? 

There are a variety of therapeutic models and theories. Some approaches work well for certain issues and some align better with the style of the therapist and or client. To name a few: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and challenging unwelcome thoughts and behaviours and replacing them with more helpful thoughts and behaviours. Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT but includes a focus on acceptance and change simultaneously, and works well for those who feel emotions intensely.

Psychodynamic approach focuses on the past, frequently childhood experiences, as they inform the present, often unconscious thoughts and emotions. Client-centred therapy believes the client is the expert in their life and the therapists’ role is to guide them on their journey to self-discovery. The therapist provides supportive, non-judgemental, and empathetic understanding to achieve positive growth. The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model approaches therapy with the belief that the mind is made up of multiple parts, and a core Self, which has the capacity to heal and allow for a well-functioning integrated whole. All parts are welcome and have positive intention but can become ‘stuck’. Therapy involves listening to the needs of parts and bringing about more self-leadership. 

It is common for psychotherapists to pull from various modalities throughout sessions as each has validity and relevance within the context of a single session or over the course of a treatment plan. 

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